Editorial: Perspective on Graduation
Yesterday was Graduate Recognition Sunday at our church. Our only son, our firstborn child, just graduated high school, so it was an emotional day. As homeschool parents, we have been very involved in the entire process of what this day recognizes. We have taken our roles seriously and, while I cannot say what my son was feeling, I am certain that my wife was torn between the sadness of knowing her baby is grown and the pride that he has become everything we prayed he would. She shows her emotions more readily than I do, but it was a plenty emotional for me, too. We are in the midst of some major transitions – some that come easily and some we tend to fight tooth and nail.
Graduation is an ending of sorts. We’ll dispense with the typical graduation clichés that we hear every year in commencement speeches, but the reality of this day in our lives is huge. Does my son feel any different having graduated high school? While I do not wish to speak for him, my guess is probably not. Much has changed and today brought that to public attention, but it certainly didn’t happen in one day. There is no waking up and “Poof! Your life is changed.” The change has been occurring slowly and through a series of transitions for a long time. It isn’t over yet, either. Maturity is more of a metamorphosis and less of a shocking all-at-once phenomenon.
It is hard to realize that our little boy does not need us in the same ways that he did just a few years ago. He already is a fine Christian young man and he will undoubtedly continue down that path as the years go by. He no longer needs us to micromanage his life. He still needs us, just not in the same way. We are transitioning from managers to advisors. Could it be that graduation is just as much a rite of passage for parents as for the student? We must find within ourselves the courage to embrace new ways of relating. We have instilled in him Christian values. He knows right from wrong; he knows what to do. Now we need to trust him to make the right decisions. Personally, I am sure that he will, at least most of the time. When faced with trials and difficulties, I am confident that my son has the discipline, integrity, and moral fiber to do all that God has called him to do.
Our son is a vibrant example of what a Christian young man ought to be, but he is still human. He will make his share of mistakes, and when he does, our role now is to offer advice when appropriate and to be there for him as he has need. He still needs us, just in different ways. In some ways, it was easier when he was little. We knew our involvement was necessary in every situation. He needed us to direct every facet of his life. It was all so black and white, but now we move in and out of the grey areas. We have to let him lead in many areas of our relationship. We need to be able to read the signals he sends and wait to be asked for advice. Is it a time that we should be giving our instinctive advice? Or should we just be listening? Is it time to speak or time to be quiet? Is it time for involvement or stillness? These are the hard questions to consider.
One thing that has not changed is that our son still needs our love. He still needs to know that we are here for him. He still needs his supportive family standing behind him, utterly struck with pride over what he has become. When he fails, we need to be there to encourage him that he will overcome the obstacle. When he succeeds, we need to herald his accomplishment. All in all, we want him to know that we support him all the time.
We tend to still speak in terms of children, kids, and little ones. It is time to speak of my son in terms of manhood. As I struggle with this issue, I am sure my wife’s emotional battle far exceeds my own. I cannot imagine what the one who birthed my son eighteen years ago must be feeling today. It is hard seeing your little one grow and become a man, but I am convinced that the rewards of the future will be awesome. My prideful humanity still in some way wants to assert the dominant role. I still want to teach or train my son and in some ways I will. The thought strikes me, though, that there is also much that he can teach me. He knows many things that I do not. We both stand to benefit from our changing relationship. He has grown and blossomed in so many wonderful ways. If I can stop being the teacher and realize that together we have much to give one another, I know that God will bless our new relationship.
These are hard lessons to learn. Is graduation day about the transitions our children are going through into adulthood? Or is it also about the transition that we as parents are experiencing? I think we must look at this occasion and realize that both are true. We all are transitioning into new, challenging, and rewarding roles. This is a day to recognize the great things that the Lord has done in and through our unique and God-honoring relationships. As the hymn says, “To God be the Glory; Great Things He Has Done.”
What does graduation mean to you? Please leave a comment.